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Submergence because of Narmada project takes oustees' struggle, led by NBA, deep inside Madhya Pradesh

By Our Representative
Anti-Namada project sentiment appears to be fast spreading deep inside Madhya Pradesh. Latest reports suggest, over the last ten days, a civil disobedience movement is being carried out by thousands of oustees of the districts of Dewas, Khandwa, and Harda, affected by the Indira Sagar dam, which Narmada Bachao Andolan describes (NBA) as “the largest impoundment in the country”. An NBA statement said, “The state government tried to crush the movement by declaring section 144 on the waters of the Indira Sagar dam, but in all three districts, thousands of oustees have broken the section offering arrests, and spread Jal satyagraha.”
NBA said, “Instead of using police force on the people, the state government should fulfill their legitimate demands and undo the historic injustice that has been wreaked on them.” In all, 254 villages are affected by the dam, which is part of the larger Narmada project, causing one of largest submergences in the country, it added. 
NBA further said, “Despite there being a land for land policy, not a single oustee was offered land, and the oustees were evicted after giving pittances in the name of compensation. As per government figures, 85% of the farmers whose lands were acquired were unable to purchase any land, and became landless. The landless were also evicted after being given pittances, and were rendered paupers. In addition, the acquisition of lands and homes falling in the submergence and the rehabilitation of thousands of families is pending.”
NBA underlined, “Despite stay orders of the Madhya Pradesh High Court and the Apex Court staying any reservoir filling above 260 metres, the water level in the reservoir was filled up to 262.13 metres, because of which houses in the villages of Lachora, Kalisaray, Piplani and many other villages submerged, and 2000 acres of land became islands.”
This prompted a delegation of representatives from the three affected districts of the Indira Sagar dam along with NBA activist Chittaroopa Palit to meet BJP leader Sushma Swaraj, apprising her of “the grave situation of submergence, the health of the affected persons and the Jal satyagraha.” Swaraj assured the delegation to take up the matter with the Madhya Pradesh chief minister.
Earlier, on September 1, senior activist of the movement, Palit and displaced persons from Barkhalia were arrested and sent to jail. Also arrested were hundreds of men and women oustees from Mel Pipliya, 67 of whom went to jail. In Harda district, the satyagrahis were arrested first in Uwa, then Bichola, then Kalisaray and Saktia. Yet, the satyagrah continued. Today the Jal-satyagraha is going on in villages of Malud, Nandana, Piplani and Lachora in district Khandwa, village Hanifabad in district Harda, and village Mel-Pipliya in district Dewas.
NBA said, “The Indira Sagar dam on the Narmada has caused the largest displacement in the country. More than 50,000 families or 3 lakh persons have been affected by this project. The rehabilitation policy enacted for this project has been completely violated and the oustees were evicted without giving a single oustee land for land. Today these oustees are fighting for their rights.”
Putting up demands, the NBA said, these include (1) the water level in the Indira Sagar dam should be brought down to 260 metres. (2) Land holders should be provided land for land with a minimum of 2 ha of land or assisted to purchase the same. (3) Landless persons should be given a grant of Rs. 2.5 lakh so that he can arrange for his livelihood at the new place. (4) Thousands of farms and houses affected by the submergence should be acquired and the concerned families rehabilitated and resettled. (5) Bridges and roads be constructed to create access to the islands formed by the reservoir.
NBA comments, “Any development project based on exclusion of and injury to thousands of oustees cannot be called a development project. It is essential that the oustees must be included and benefit from the process of development. It is a matter of shame in this democracy, that the oustees are being compelled to rot their bodies in the reservoir created over their own lands, only in order to obtain their rights.”

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